The Furniture Recycling Group (FRG) has warned that landlords are having to clear up hundreds of thousands of old mattresses that have been left in warehouses after recycling companies go bust.
FRG director Nick Oettinger said he was aware of around 250,000 mattresses that had been left in seven or eight warehouses across the country.
“With the increase in demand for mattress recycling, a lot of people are starting up and having a go,” he said.
“When they try to move this material, they find the steel is worth very little because it is classed as wire. It is also very hard and expensive to compress into bales, so you can’t move it very far. You can end up getting paid £20 a tonne for it.
“In the end, they are either kicked out by the landlord or disappear overnight.”
One warehouse in Wednesbury in the West Midlands was estimated to contain around 48,000 mattresses.
FRG has also been involved in two sites in Wales and others in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Kent.
Oettinger said the problem had become “a lot worse” during the past 18 months because landfill sites were starting to ban bulky mattresses.
He said FRG was being called in by landlords and the Environment Agency to deal with the problem.
“I hope people are not intentionally filling up warehouses, taking the gate fees and doing a runner,” he added.
“I think people get involved in mattress recycling with the view that it is going to be a big industry and there is a huge demand for it. But they don’t know enough about it and haven’t got secured outlets for the material.”
Oettinger urged organisations looking to dispose of mattresses – including hotels, local authorities and retailers – to check on recyclers’ licences and undertake due diligence.
Earlier this year, Lewis Bertram, trading as Eco Matters, was prosecuted after a large dump of mattresses built up on his site. He was given a six-month term, suspended for two years, and 300 hours of unpaid work
The organisation began recycling mattresses in 2010 and now has operations in Lancashire, Derbyshire, Chester, Wales and Northern Ireland.